2010-02-February 2010

We have our frozen meat order, we've gone to the fruit and vegetable market, we've stocked up on dry goods. We transformed on of our hanging lockers into a pantry. It has come in very useful. The whole boat is stocked to the gills. We went to the airport and got our new code zero which was air shipped from South Africa. I'd say we are ready to go!!!! We plan to leave the Balboa Yacht Club tomorrow morning to head to Las Perlas Islands. Bye Panama City, it was very interesting and educational.

Feb 7, 2010 – Balboa Yacht Club to Contadora, Las Perlas Islands, Panama – 40.5nm

We left Balboa after going to the gas dock to clean the boat again. It gets so dirty from being in the city. Unfortunately, they the gas dock had no diesel available. Go figure! We tried our new sail that we had waited weeks for and were disappointed when we realized it wasn’t cut to our specifications and it won’t roll up properly. It is very well made so we won’t despair yet, we will keep working on it to see what we can do.

Feb. 8, 2010 - Contadora, Las Perlas to San Cristobal, Galapagos -- 936.82nm

We were hanging out on Isla Contadora in Las Perlas (the northern end of the Pearl Island Archipelago) but our hearts just weren’t into it. We took a dingy tour around the island, then we walked around the island. The Pearls have been home to three seasons of the popular CBS television series “Survivor”, with Contadora serving as the show’s base of operations.

The Shah of Iran used to live here when he was exiled many years ago. The Island has numerous private homes, and acts as a refuge for many of Panama's most wealthy families. Our Lonely Planet guide was very outdat

ed however when it suggested that we could rent a golf cart at the hotel, when in fact the hotel doesn't exist anymore. There are many white sand beaches and the kids played for a while.

Chris decided he couldn’t stand it any longer, he was just itching to get going on the passage so after checking the weather one more time, we pulled up anchor at 4:00 p.m. and started on the journey to the Galapagos.

The first two days we had gentle breezes from behind and we used our new code zero sail and our spinnaker, then the next two days we had no wind as we moved through the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone) alternatively the doldrums so we had to motor. The following days the wind really picked up and we found ourselves going upwind with full main and genoa! (not what I was expecting).

We had a bit of drama one night, (of course that is when these things happen)! The wind was really picking up after two days of no wind this was a good thing. Chris unfurled the code zero which for those non-sailors is a very large sail for light airs or going downwind. It is hooked on at the bowsprit, (a metal pole), that is held down by two ropes. At 5:00 a.m. when it was still pitch black and raining! one of the ropes on the bowsprit chafed through so instead of pointing down it popped right up preventing us from being able to roll up the sail. The wind kept picking up and we had this huge sail up there unable to get it down. We decided to just drop the sail onto the deck. Unfortunately I released the halyard too soon as there was so much pressure on it and the whole sail fell into the ocean but still attached to the boat!!!! Both Chris and I together managed to bring it back on board, then we shoved it into the sailbag. Our new sail covered in salt water and crumpled!

So our new RULE to add to our list is : Always use your newest equipment first, and keep the older stuff as a spare. This is counter intuitive to what we are used to doing: using up old stuff first.

We arrived outside the anchorage at 11:00 p.m. on February 14, 2010. (6 days;6 hours). However it was very cloudy and dark and visibility was not great so we floated around all night and came into the anchorage in the morning.

Feb. 13, 2010 - crossing the equator party

Welcome to the Galapagos!! (be prepared to part with some serious cash). The Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador. The first island that is a port of entry is San Cristobal. There are two choices for yachts clearing in. The first is you just show up and you will be allowed to anchor in San Cristobal for 20 days but you cannot move the boat though the crew are free to roam. It is however very pricey to take boat tours to the other islands. (The boat anchored in front of us took a 5 day tour for $675US per person). The second choice is to hire an agent to get you an autographo which entitles you to stay 30-45 days and you can visit the three islands of San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabella. We decided to hire Bolivar as our agent. He met us Monday morning with the port captain and a lady from agriculture. We had to give them each some cash. We spent all afternoon riding around in the back of a truck going to the park administration, immigration, and getting photocopies. We had to pay for each one of these stops. We even had to pay for the truck to drive us around. He never returned our passports the next day like he said so a couple of days later we went to pick them up at his house and he charged us another $30.00 for some other piece of paper we needed!! At the end of the day we had spent a total of $900.00 USD!

San Cristobal is the capital of the Galapagos. The main town is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and has a population of 6000 people. The inhabited area was formed by a collapsed volcano that is believed to be 5 million years old. It is a typical fishing village, has a marvellous promenade for biking and strolling and lots of restaurants. The day we arrived there was a huge party of the beach with loud music. We are able to buy diesel, gas, and propane. There is a fruit and vegetable market on Saturday morning, several tiendas to buy supplies, hardware stores and even a couple of great bakeries that sell lots more than just buns and bread! That is what surprised me the most so far about the Galapagos. I was thinking we were going to be in a very remote location with not much of anything around. This is definitely not the case.

There are sea lions all over the place. They sleep in the moored fishing boats, along the dingy dock and by the beach. It was recommended to us that we not take our dingy anywhere as the sea lions will jump into it and may flip it. There are water taxis available for .50 cents a person. The harbour is busy with tour boats and fishing boats and it is amazingly clear water.

Our first stop was to visit the Interpretation Center, it is by the ocean, has wooden walkways and exhibits on the human and geological history of the island and plants and animals. It was very well done and interesting. We took a hike to the beach at Playa Punta Carola. There were sea lions playing in the surf. They do not run away when you approach them or walk by, they don’t seem affected by humans whatsoever. We saw some lava lizards on the hard, dark, pieces of lava that line the beach.

It was recommended to us by a fellow cruiser here in the anchorage that we close our back gates on the transom so the sea lions won’t come on board. I thought this was very farfetched, but we did it anyway and tried to barricade the two entrances. The sea lions seem to sleep alot during the day and are more active around dusk. They sound like a 300 pound man belching while coughing up a hairball. All this right outside your window! Lo and behold the kids came running into our room at 6:00 in the morning yelling that there was a sea lion in our cockpit. We ran outside and it was true - sleeping on my newly recovered cockpit cushions!!! Chris waved a towel at him and he very indignantly left. Night after night we can hear them trying to board our boat. We seem to have come up with a good system so they can’t get into the cockpit however there always seems to be a least one sleeping on the bottom step of the transom.